Loretto College in 1922. Photo courtesy of Loretto Archives, Canadian Province

100 years of memories from Loretto College

  • April 30, 2016

TORONTO – In many ways, Loretto College School hasn’t changed at all in the past 100 years.

Students and alumni agree girls still worry about the same things today as they did decades before: uncomfortable uniforms, making friends and deciding what they want to do after graduation.

“Things like social media, we didn’t have to deal with back then,” said alumni Judy Pedrosa. “But the issues I think are the same where you’re dealing with normal teenage issues that girls deal with.”

Pedrosa graduated in 1993 and now works as a teacher at the Catholic high school for young girls in Toronto. It was founded as a private school by the Loretto Sisters Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1915. As a member of the centenary celebrations committee, Pedrosa has heard stories from generations of women who have gone through the Loretto College School experience.

“The huge difference I think is the location,” said Pedrosa. “Things felt more strict back then and there was a certain respect and a sense of history in that old building.”

Pedrosa said she takes advantage of every opportunity to talk to her students about the rich history of the school.

“They’re very curious about it. They ask all the time,” said Pedrosa. “They are very curious about what was it like to be in a building where nuns lived. Even as a student, there was an air of curiosity... You would always walk past the rooms and you always wonder what they do every day.”

The school building on Brunswick Avenue was built next to the convent in 1954 and was known as Loretto Brunswick, separate from Loretto Abbey and the day school known as Loretto Bond Street.

In the 1980s, Loretto College opened up a second campus (“the south campus”) on Bathurst Street. That campus later became Monsignor Fraser College and Loretto College was relocated to 151 Rosemount Ave. in 2005.

Pedrosa said her four years as a student at Loretto College were some of the best years of her life. Now as a teacher, she is grateful for her unique opportunity to connect with so many of the school’s generations.

Pedrosa said there are a handful of staff that are also alumni. Together, they have been talking with students about the significant milestone the community is celebrating throughout the year. They talk especially about Blessed Mary Ward, the founder of the Loretto Sisters, and the legacy they leave behind for Catholic education.

Sr. Jane Dunbar is the education liaison for the Loretto Sisters and a graduate of the class of 1954. She said her experience under the tutelage of the Loretto Sisters is what inspired her to join the order. Now, she hopes to do the same for today’s young women.

“When I went to Loretto, we were taught by the sisters and there were only three lay people on the staff,” said Dunbar. “They were excellent women who gave their lives for us... It’s a huge change today. It’s quite common now in a lot of our schools to have no religious at all.”

Still, Dunbar said the spirit of a Catholic education is present in all the schools.

“There’s always a great spirit in the school,” said Dunbar. “When you walk into a Catholic school, you want to know are they teaching Catholicity here or is this just a public school and that’s very important I think.”

Dunbar and the other staff also talk about famous alumni Marilyn Bell, the Canadian long-distance swimmer who was the first person to swim across Lake Ontario in 1954.

Another famous alumni is Canadian author Viga Boland. In time for the centenary celebrations, Loretto College hosted the book launch of her Ladies of Loretto. In the book, she recalls some of the happiest and carefree times of her high school years.

“It was the book that I’ve always wanted to write,” said Boland. “Being a student at Loretto College was one of the nicest parts of my life... I wanted to share those memories and rekindle some of the fun that we had back then.”

Boland graduated in 1965. She said that participating in centenary events over the past year has been exciting because it allowed her to reunite with friends she hasn’t seen in 50 years.

Students, staff, alumni and other Loretto College community members will end the year of centenary celebrations on May 14 with a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Clare Church, followed by a reception at the school. Visit lorettocollege100.com to RSVP.

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